The Case of the Mysterious Morse Key

Ok, well it was not one of the greatest mysteries of all time. Certainly not an Agatha Christie novel, but, I found out what this morse key actually is. The key itself was easy enough, its a PMG key from WW2, it was the base that I could not find anything about on google. Anyway it turns out that it was a lantern signallers key from WW2.  Use for short range communications on the battle field and came in a metal case, with a battery and a hand held light. They are pretty common and not worth a lot. But, still an interesting bit of history none the less.

Here is a picture of one in mint condition, all bolted into the lid of the box that housed the battery and light.


Pixie Power

I have had this bad boy sitting in a box for a while now. Unused and unloved. Well up until a few weeks ago I could not use it into anything but a dummy load because my old license restrictions did not allow me to transmit with anything other than a commercially manufactured transmitter. And being a good little boy, I had actually followed that rule.

So anyone, in box 1 we have a pixie, in box 2 we have an iambic keyer and the key is a Begali. I plan to fire it up tonight and see if i can get picked up anywhere on RBN, hear myself on a VK2 Kiwi SDR or even make a contact with a mate of mine who lives in VK3. RBN will be doable, VK4CT is just up the hill from me and I should be able to get a report from him at least.

Wish me luck.


Home Brew Straight Key. Update

So I got excited and rather than waiting on all the bits from China i ordered to polish the crap out of this, I decided just to put it into service. I am still waiting for the right sized lower springs to arrive from China, these ones i cut out of ones i bought from Bunnnings (hardware store in VK) and they do not sit correct. But, the key works, its nice and smooth and even though its not polished to within an inch of its life, i am very happy with how this turned out. I learned a lot and if i do another one, I know i can make it better than this one by a long shot.



Home Brew Straight Key

All the bits have finally arrived and I can get onto making a key. Not your average crap key made from a paper clip or a couple of bananas and a peg, but something that is going to be solid and last a lifetime. Well, as part of my plan to home brew an entire station from key to antenna and everything in between, I have taken a break from the receiver project while i wait on some parts and will focus on building a key for a while.

Parts are 100x10mm aluminum, 30x10mm aluminum, 10mm delrin, knurnled nuts M4, M4 threaded rod, M4 copper rivets and some spring-a-ma-things.

The plan is to made a not very pretty but very functional straight key. Its going to be no Begali or Kent even, but I think it should work ok.

So i have made a start on it and cut out the base plate, yes I using aluminum for the base and not wood, the 2 pivot blocks and what will eventually become the arm. I have hit an impasse tonight and cannot cut the arm out until morning when i can open the garage door and get access to the vice. Onward and upward.

Day 2: Its starting to take shape.

So much sanding. LOL. Yeah its probably going to take 10 hours of sanding to get things perfect.

And the sanding continues LOL

Its coming along nicely.

Added some random springs for a temporary test and it seems to work quite fine. Actually when i make it properly adjustable and put a knob on it, it should be a pretty good unit all round. Waiting on springs to come from china. So not much doing now for 3 weeks.


Portable CW Key

So i have one of those god awful chinese cw keys designed for the FT817 that I use portable so i do not have to take the Begali with me. Expensive key being bashed about does not sound appealing to me. Anyway, i have used tape and all sorts of methods of holding this thing in place for use. But the other day I finally made up a suitable base for it to make the worst key in the world almost usable.

I routed up some bits of 6mm ply on the CNC and did a quick dry run to see if it was going to work.


Next i droped the rig in place and all seemed to be good.



Gave it a good sanding and then glued it all together with some 5min epoxy


The end result, the weight of the light weight rig is enough to hold the key in place and make it useable.


CW Crash Course

So i like to CW. Its a great mode, but it is also one take takes some skill and practice to be good at. I can send ok, but my receive skills generally revolve around a decoder doing most of the heavy lifting. Now, this has its limitations obviously, weak signals are hard to decode, bug and straight keys are hard to decode, QRM makes it hard to decode, if the other person is pretty crappy at sending it is hard to decode and the list of things that make it hard to decode go on and on. So, obviously, if one is going to be serious with CW, you better get the skills needed to receive using your ears and your brain.

With this in mind, a local ham put together a 6 week challenge designed to get your reception skills working. The program itself is not revolutionary, but it has inspired me to bite the bullet and for the next 6 weeks really put in some effort into getting my reception skills to a place where i would like them to be. During the day, I will be immersing myself in the numbers and letters that I will be working on that week and using a couple of android testing apps to test my progress as well as nightly send and receive sessions with a ham mate of mine who is also working on his rx.

Week 1: Numbers, 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,0

Week 2: Letters, E,I,S,T,M,O,A,N,U,G

Week 3: Letters, H,D,W,V,J,B,C,F,K,L

Week 4: Punctuation, ? , . / ERROR = P,Q,R,X,Y,Z

Weeks 5: Words and Call Signs

Week 6: QSO’s and Sentences.

Doing this for an hour or more a day, 5 days a week, should indoctrinate me in somewhat into getting the receive skills working much better than they currently are. I am looking forward to the challenge and the outcome at the end.




Universal Memory Keyer

I have almost completed the Universal Memory Keyer kit from Kits and Parts. The kit goes together well, is well designed and uses quality components. There are a couple of things are can be confusing, like the 4 different types of keying output or the 2 different power inputs. But once you get past those hurdles it, it does everything you expect.

Programming in the memory’s is not something for the feint hearted. To be honest its an exercise in futility, almost. Firstly after pushing the function button then the memory button you are then able to key in what you want in memory. However, its slow on the upload, so, you have to go one word at a time and pause. cq, wait till the keyer beaps e then cq etc, but when you get to your callsign, mine is 7 letters vk4ffab, you have to triple space the letters. V   K   4   etc, which is not something that most of use do, we are so used to keying off our call at whatever speed we normally operate at, that doing this, seems, well unnatural.

Anyway, i am happy with the keyer even with its quirks, and will likley buy a couple more, one to use at home permanently, one in the portable station box and another in the homebrew station im working on. Happy days 🙂

IMG_20151020_195908IMG: Assembled Universal Memory Keyer